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History of the Derringer: Concealed Carry’s Forefather

Cobra Derringer

We here at ConcealedCarry.com have certainly looked at and discussed a plethora of makes and models of popular modern concealed carry handguns. From the FMK 9C1 to the Walther CCP to the .22 TCM 1911, however today we are going to be talking about something a little less modern, but without it, concealed carry wouldn't be what it is today. I'm speaking of course of the Derringer.

DERINGER CREATES THE DERRINGER

No, that's not a typo you see. The creator of the Derringer pistol was a Pennsylvania born gunsmith by the name of Henry Deringer. He was born in Easton, Pennsylvania in 1786 and lived 81 years until his death in Philadelphia in 1868. During his life, Henry Deringer had always been around guns. His father, Henry Deringer Sr. was a gunsmith himself making variants of the Kentucky Rifle for sport as well as the U.S. Army.

Deringer

John Wiles Booth's Deringer, photo from Commons.Wikimedia

Early on in his life, whether by his choice or by his family's Henry also found himself on his father's path and went to Richmond, VA to apprentice as a gunsmith himself before returning back to Philadelphia in 1806. Once back he took his lifetime of knowledge and put it to work in his own gun shop. There he created the Model 1814 and Model 1817 common rifles and worked on other firearms that were used heavily in trade with Native American tribes.

It wasn't until the 1820's that Deringer made the switch from rifles to pocket pistols and a new creation was about to change his life forever.

THE PHILADELPHIA DERINGER

No, that's not a typo you see either, the very first Derringer was in fact still called a Deringer after Henry, its inventor. With models of it being made available locally around Philadelphia for many years, Henry Deringer continued to improve and release new models of Deringer pistols throughout the 1820s to the 1840s before a wide release of the pocket pistol from 1852 to 1868.

Pocket pistols were nothing new to folks of the 19th century. Pocket pistols had been around since the Queen Anne Pistol in the late 1600's but nothing had ever been introduced that was so small and easy to conceal that your average everyday man or woman could secretly be able to defend themselves.

The main users for the Deringer pistol were professional gamblers and ladies who used them as “Muff Pistols.” Now, keep your mind out of the gutter because this literally meant that it was small enough to be able to fit inside of ladies hand-warmers when they were out and about.

And not only that but these guns were cheap as well. They were normally bought in pairs and the cost for BOTH guns ranged from $15 for an average model to $25 for a decked out engraved silver pair. That's equivalent to around $390 for an average pair to $660 for a fancy pair given today's inflation.

It was a new era for defensively carrying in the country and money began pouring in for Henry. However, just like when a new craze hits these days there were plenty of vultures circling Henry and his pistol.

THE DERRINGER DESTROYS DERINGER

Early Remington model

Just as things were at their best for Henry word began to spread around the country that many companies were suddenly making Derringers. The only problem with this for Henry is that they weren't making Deringers. You see, copyright law being what it is leaves a lot of room for backdoor deals and sometimes straight-up idea theft and it was happening to Henry at this point.

Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth and his own Philadelphia Deringer, the popularity of the gun spread throughout the nation. Everyone knew it as the gun that killed Lincoln. Even folks who had never fired a gun or owned one before. Because of this, major gun companies like Remington and Colt decided to push out their own models of the pocket pistol and several other smaller companies straight up copied Deringer's design.

However, one small piece was changed to try and get around copyright law. The name. It was as easy as having engravers at these small gunsmith shops add an extra “R” in Deringer and suddenly the firearm was no longer Henry's anymore. It was a brand. The Colt 1st and 3rd model .41 Derringer and all of the short-lived copies that Henry Deringer spent the rest of his natural life embattled in court with over the use of his designs. The very gun that he created and caused him so much success would ultimately lead to his downfall.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

bond patriot

Modern Bond Arms Derringer, photo courtesy of bondarms.com

Now while capitalism can be cruel to some like Henry Deringer, it does bring about innovation that leads to some of the greatest societal changes in history. Even though Henry and his life were scarred by his invention and the variants others created from his initial work, without them we would not be as invested in concealed carry as we are now. The field may have been 50 years behind if it weren't for the Remingtons and Colts of the world spreading the word of the Derringer and spreading interest of concealed pistols in general.

It also paved the way for guns like the Baby Browning or the FP-45 Liberator. (A gun which deserves its own special article because it is one of the main reasons D-Day and the Allied Invasion of Europe in World War II was a success) It also was the forefather to Glock's concealed carry line of handguns, Sig Sauer, S&W's M&P, Kel-Tec, Ruger, the list goes on and on.

But what it all comes back to is the ingenuity of one man to think a little differently about what the people want and tirelessly devote himself to that cause. Henry Deringer may not have name recognition like the Derringer does, but it is because of him and his invention being spread like wildfire through corporations that saw its popularity that the interest in concealed carry is what it is today.

Roll call, who here owns a Derringer of any kind? Let us know, below.

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3 Responses to History of the Derringer: Concealed Carry’s Forefather

  1. Kurt January 11, 2018 at 2:16 pm #

    I have a Bond with various barrels.

    Kurt

  2. Matthew Maruster January 11, 2018 at 4:35 pm #

    This is really cool. I didn’t know much of this! Thanks Craig.

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